BEIJING: With a cryptic message about UFOs and a picture of a missile launcher, China`s military has hinted that it has carried out a test of a new missile, after images of an object streaking towards the sky circulated on Chinese social media.
The People`s Liberation Army typically does not announce new missile tests, but occasionally drops hints about what it is up to, amid a massive modernisation push championed by President Xi Jinping to ramp up combat capabilities.
On Sunday, footage circulated on China`s Weibo microblogging service of an object travelling up into the sky, leaving a white trail behind it, over the Bohai Sea, partly closed at the time for military drills. That caused some Chinese internet users to wonder if it was a UFO, though most thought it was probably the test of a new underwater-launched ballistic missile.
In a short post on its official Weibo account late on Monday, the People`s Liberation Army Rocket Force showed a picture of what looked like a road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile launcher against a night sky. "Do you believe in this world there are UFOs?" it wrote in the caption, without offering further explanation.
The navy then chimed in on its Weibo account with a picture of a missile being launched from underwater heading off into the blue sky above, with a similar caption: "Do you believe in UFOs?"
Defence publication Janes said on its website that the weekend pictures could have been China`s next generation submarine-launched ballistic missile, the JL-3. The Ministry of Defence did not respond to a request for comment.
The development of the nuclear-armed JL-3 is being closely watched by the United States and its allies as it is expected to have a longer range than its predecessor and will significantly strengthen China`s nuclear deterrent.
In its latest annual survey of China`s military modernisation, the Pentagon said last month the new missile would likely to be fitted on China`s next-generation nuclear missile submarines. Construction is due to start in the early 2020s.